Friday, 28 June 2013

The reviewing dilemma

A few weeks ago I won a free copy of Charlotte Phillip's new novella Your Room or Mine on a Twitter giveaway by new digital-first imprint Harper Impulse. I was really pleased - until it dawned on me that they weren't just giving it away to be lovely and generous, but that of course they wanted reviews.

For someone who claims to know a little bit about marketing I can be quite remarkably dim sometimes!

Now, I love Charlotte's style, championed her through NV11 and adored her first M&B title Secrets of the Rich and Famous so was pretty sure I was going to love this one too (and I did. It's a lovely, bubbly read. A sweet, sexy short well worth a read) so that wasn't the problem. The problem is more that I don't often do reviews because, if push comes to shove, I'm not sure I can be impartial when it come to people I know.

It's true that I have publicised a few books on here. And it is also true that some are published by friends, the majority of them real life friends. If I did dislike their work would I publicly admit it? Of course not. Luckily this dilemma hasn't arisen yet (honest!). I didn't tell you to rush out and buy Donna Douglas' Nightingale Girls series because we used to work together and are regularly asked to leave restaurants because they would really like to go home now, but because she brings the 1930s and her huge cast of characters to life beautifully. So beautifully that I have been begging for hints about What Happens Next. She won't tell me.

Nor do I enthusiastically retweet and add to all the praise deservedly heaped on Pamela Hartshorne for Time's Echo as a thanks for all her patience and help and for always joining me in 'just one more glass'. It really is a fantastic, spine chilling book. According to my mother: 'The best book of last year, even better than Song of Achilles'. Which is high praise indeed because she loved Song of Achilles.

I genuinely loved every book mentioned on this blog. But the day will come when I am less than enthusiastic about a book written by someone I like and I don't want to be in the position of either writing a dishonest review or letting them know that. So this is why I stay away from reviewing, fab as it would be to get loads of ARCs and to be courted by publishers for my influential views *dreams*.

But to show that I am an honest reviewer here are some thoughts that I have had recently on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a book that obviously I adore as a Children's Classic but have a few character driven problems with (especially point number one) that have been bugging me for over thirty years:
1. If Grandpa Jo is fit enough to go around the factory with Charlie why has he spent the last ten years or so in bed? Surely he could have helped his poor, hardworking, burdened son and daughter in law by tending an allotment or working part time rather than consuming cabbage soup and staying in bed? The same goes for Grandma Josephina, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. They can't all be that infirm!
2. No matter how amazing the chocolate is shouldn't the town boycott Wonka's products as he has contributed to the sluggish economy by firing his workers and importing slave labour? Uncut need to do some picketing.
3.  Which brings me to Augustus Gloop. A victim of Wonka's products. He would probably be a better person to takeover than Charlie, he obviously adores chocolate. Although he would need some hygiene training first. And a Health and Safety course. In fact the whole factory needs a Health and Safety audit pronto.
4. Verruca Salt; a victim of her upbringing. We all have the potential to be a Verruca Salt. Nowadays she would have a reality show and no one would bat an eyelid if she ordered a £1 million crystal bathtub. Actually, that isn't true. I would. I would bat and judge. But most people wouldn't.

Friday, 21 June 2013

It may be flawed, but it's mine

My first thought (after, 'What if I totally misunderstood what the editor means and I have actually made this WORSE', a thought that is still filling a good 50% of my brain at all times) when I finally pressed Send on Summer Fling was 'At last I can start something new!'
Four and a half weeks later I have 376 words. Words I know are highly unlikely to make it through to the final draft at that. And with a week from Hell looming (and *cough* Wimbledon), to say nothing of spending my morning off ironing not writing, I can't see that word count rising significantly any time soon.
After two finished mss - and four partials/unedited fulls - I am beginning to understand my process. Sure, to the casual onlooker it may look as if I have spent the last four weeks reading, look as if I whiled away the morning watching Gossip Girl and eating frozen yoghurt just as last week I spent my day off lying on the sofa binge reading Kristan Higgins and watching Queens, but Casual Onlooker I am slowly and surely figuring it out. Honestly.
I'm not a massive plotter, I don't lay my structure out on paper. I don't have a notice board or a highlighter pen or post-its cool as they are. I don't write character studies or Q&A's and Pinterest their wardrobes. Maybe I should. At least I'd have something to show for my time.
But four weeks of dog walking and thinking and frozen yoghurt have achieved something.
I know my hook. I know my conflict. I know what makes both my Hero and heroine tick even if his job is a little unclear to me right now. I know my three acts even if I don't have each scene plotted within those acts. I have names for them, but they may change, and I don't know exactly what - or who - they look like but I know their setting. And no, I haven't done the necessary research yet because I know I'll get sucked in and never get words on paper. I'll do that as I go along.
Sure, this process is flawed. It's time wasting and stressful and full of guilty 'why am I lying on the sofa and Not Writing' panic. But it looks like it's my process.
Time to find out if it works....

Friday, 7 June 2013

Things to do whilst inbox stalking

Nobody warns you. There's a lot of good advice out there; 'just write', 'try every day', 'write for you', 'save the cat', 'three act structure', '100 uses for Pinterest that are research, honest' blogs, books and courses. But nowhere have I found any advice on how to stalk an inbox in a calm and dignified fashion.
I blame my smartphone myself. It must have been different in the old days when the anxious aspiring writer was dependent on one postal delivery a day to communicate their 'yes', 'no' or 'possibly if you change everything'. If you were out, you were out. If the post didn't bring anything well,njoy the rest of your day. But now your inbox follows you around, looming over your head like a dark, gloomy, portentous cartoon cloud making you jump every time you are offered another 10% off a tent/free delivery on a takeaway/school newsletter* *delete as applicable

Hand over the water small ones
I even had 3G on the top of a mountain in the Lakes. So I checked my emails in between stealing water from the child and the pup and convincing my exhausted legs that they could go on.

Sixteen months, one alternative submission, five new opening chapters and a total rewrite later I finally sent in my R&R. Sixteen days ago. My romance fast tracked full was sent in 26 weeks and 5 days ago. Not that I am counting or anything.
But that means I am waiting on two manuscripts. Two and a half years worth of drafts, rewrites, edits, starting again, feedback and did I mention rewrites? 

Of course the best thing to do is keep writing. Start something new. And I am! I will! Only what? Another category? Something else? After four years of writing category? *head explodes*

So, in the last two weeks I have:
  • walked up mountains
  • been a good, ultra critiquing CP
  •  enjoyed the sunshine (actually, this is obligatory. In Yorkshire you can never, ever assume that just cause the sun is shining today it will again tomorrow. Or again this year.)
  • watched the French Open and marvelled at how much tweeting Andy Murray does when he isn't actually playing in a tournament whilst putting the Top 4 into Harlequin categories (Federer Presents, natch, Murray Riva/Kiss, Nadal historical, probably as a pirate like in the Majorca ads he does and Djokovich Cherish. I know he lives in Monte Carlo but he has a poodle and is a huge joker so can't be a Presents hero). 
  • reread Wolf Hall and then lost myself in Bringing up the Bodies via admiring Philippa Gregory's pageturning awesomeness in the Kingmaker's Daughter and finally, finally finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. And enjoying it!
  • Unsubscribing from all those marketing emails
Whilst still checking my inbox 500 times a day. *sigh*